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Wolf Creek Fire puts up large column

SHAUN STANLEY/Durango Herald

The smoke plume from the West Fork Fire outside of Pagosa Springs dominates the eastern horizon Wednesday afternoon as seen from La Plata County Road 234. No health advisories were issued Wednesday.

By Ann Butler , Shane Benjamin Herald staff writers

A wildfire burning near Wolf Creek Pass put up a large column of smoke Wednesday visible from 75 miles away, including south of Durango.

Active fire behavior was fueled by hot temperatures and winds out of the southwest.

The West Fork Fire was being pushed northward up the West Fork drainage and to the northeast up the Beaver Creek drainage further into the Weminuche Wilderness. The West Fork Fire put up most of the smoke Wednesday.

The Windy Pass Fire, burning about three miles south of Wolf Creek Ski Area, also moved quickly Wednesday, heading north up Treasure Creek and east toward the west side of Lane Creek.

“The advance has the fire burning within a quarter mile of the closest infrastructure at Wolf Creek Ski Area,” Fire Information Officer Pam Wilson said in a news release Wednesday evening. “Firefighters are attempting to hold the fire south of the Continental Divide and the ski area.”

U.S. Highway 160 was still open Wednesday evening, but Wilson said visibility is limited in some areas.

The fire behavior was anticipated because of the lack of cloud cover, warmer temperatures and lower relative humidity, according to a news release from the San Juan National Forest. A red-flag warning that began at noon Wednesday will continue to be in effect until 10 p.m. today, and the National Weather Service said the high fire danger will continue through Friday and possibly through the weekend in some areas.

A thin layer of smoke that settled into the La Plata County area Wednesday morning came from fires burning in surrounding states and not La Plata County.

Active fires burning in New Mexico, southeast Utah and northern Arizona were contributing to the hazy skies created by the Wolf Creek fires, according to a news release from the La Plata County Office of Emergency Management.

The heavy smoke made it difficult for aircraft to assess the current perimeters of the fires Wednesday evening, so no new measurements were available.

“Nighttime wind patterns tend to pull smoke into the valleys,” Wilson said. “If this occurs, the smoke is likely to be heavier in the San Luis Valley Wednesday night and this morning.”

Residents are requested to call Interagency Fire Dispatch only with reports of new fires that are observed.

No health advisories had been issued for residents in La Plata County as of Wednesday evening.


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